It was a year to the day since I had passed my GST, but Ed wasn’t to know that as he hopped into the aeroplane with me. We were going up to twiddle knobs and do the settings on the aeroplane’s new radio.

I did my checks and took off on 21, straight into wind. We weren’t 200 ft up when he gave me an engine failure. “Here we go,” I thought. “Of course, this is going to be a long ride.” I pushed the nose down and said, “I’d land right here.” Satisfied, he opened the throttle and we climbed away. The static on the radio was dreadful and I couldn’t hear the incoming aeroplane. “I can fix that,” he said, “just need to be on the ground to do it.” “We can go back now,” I suggested hopefully, not sure I had the energy for what would be a lesson with him.

We crossed into clearer airspace and headed north. ”It’s a long time since I went up with you,” I said. “Forgotten it all, have we?” he asked. “What would you do if we had an engine failure here?”, as he cut the throttle. I kept my airspeed, showed him which field I was aiming for and came down quite nicely I thought, putting on flaps and turning final so I would get in neatly to the enormous field I had picked.

“So what marks would you give yourself for that?” he asked as we climbed out. “I think I did okay,” I countered. “Didn’t do the full Mayday thing, but I would have got it in there just fine.” “And what about if I had knocked the mags and you could have restarted it? Good choice of field, approach was fine, pity you would have landed short. You’d have come in on that line of trees, when you had a huge field to land in.”

“Okay, let’s do a stall.” He sensed my brain-freeze. “Remember how to do that?” As I was racking my brains for the sequence of events, he was hammering me about not trotting through the Hassell checks, and although I did it right, I did need prompting. Thank goodness I had done a run through with Dan just a few days before.

One after another they came – steep turns and every version of unusual attitudes until my head was spinning.

As we left the airfield, Dan had been heading to a private strip he had never landed at before. “Let’s go there too,” Ed said, even though we hadn’t done PPR. We overflew the runway and I did a circuit, setting myself up for the landing and wondering why he was on his phone. Until I heard him talk to Kev, the airfield owner. “Mind if we drop in then?” So, he did understand that Kev didn’t like unannounced visitors.

I flew over the hangar, feeling far too high for the runway. Ed got me to push the nose down and I landed, with half the runway left. “You are always in too much of a hurry,” he remonstrated. Kev’s first question was, “Who did the landing?” “I did!” “Then it was okay. Just wanted to check it wasn’t Ed, or I may not have said that!” I laughed.

There was a bit of chitchat and we were off, going to show Dan the strip I wanted to try landing on. As we left, another unusual attitude, but this time I was quicker on the uptake. I found the field and Ed gave me an emergency landing to get the aircraft down.

By now he was bored. It wasn’t a teaching afternoon, after all. “Let’s go and play in the clouds.” I handed control to him, so I could take photos. We looked for a break where he could climb. Climbing up and heading back down later I sneaked in pics of the dashboard between images of the clouds drifting past us. “I would have been worried the aeroplane would bust, at that rate of descent,” said Dan when I showed him.

The flight log showed zigzags and twirls, dips and dives, like a child’s uncontrolled drawing. “So, I wouldn’t have passed my GST today then?” I checked with Ed as we taxied back to the apron. “Nope!” he said cheerily.

It had been on my list before my flight with Ed, but now perhaps with a bit more urgency. I am relaxed and confident at the controls, and I feel like a pilot. It has taken the best part of a year. But Exercise 17C – the GST run-through – will be what keeps me busy when going places isn’t really an option.